Many of the city’s and nation’s top Democrats are wringing their hands about going to work for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reelection campaign. Democratic political operators who have hopped aboard the Bloomberg bus, such as Howard Wolfson, Andrea Batista Schlesinger and Basil Smikle, are finding themselves defined as traitors by dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, accused of betraying the party’s strong mayoral hopefuls such as Anthony Weiner and William C. Thompson Jr.
Relax! Rudolph Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg have shown that partisan politics are so 20th century, at least in New York. The city has revived, and is able to confront the Great Recession, from a position of strength because it has put aside blind party loyalty in favor of problem-solving. That is the legacy of Mr. Giuliani (as mayor; not in his bizarre present incarnation) and Mr. Bloomberg, whose own party-hopping—from Democrat to Republican to independent, all in the last eight years—amplifies the point that policies matter more than party.
Messrs. Giuliani and Bloomberg have been elected by forging political coalitions that have drawn upon voters from all political persuasions. The vast majority of New Yorkers may be registered Democrats, but when it comes to electing a mayor, they vote the person, not the party. Whether it is fighting crime, reducing welfare rolls, improving our parks or strengthening our economy, the interests of New Yorkers have been well served by a strong, independent mayor who put the priorities of our city ahead of any political machine.
What makes New York different from so many other cities is that we have a government that works, and works well. In part this is due to the City Charter, which was revised in 1989 to give the mayor power over the municipal budget and limit the City Council’s authority to interfere with critical decisions regarding fundamental services. In New York, the mayor has the key power of appointing and removing the commissioners responsible for basic services, such as police, fire, parks and sanitation. It is no accident that Mr. Bloomberg has picked seasoned professionals to run those departments, hard workers who have risen through the ranks and proven to be first-rate leaders.
It’s worth noting that the fastest-growing group of voters has been unaffiliated voters, those who do not register with either political party. And as Mayor Fiorello La Guardia said, “There is no Republican or Democratic way to clean the streets.”